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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Soldiers Assist at Your (and Our) Service

My great researcher friend May Lattanzio (she is also a poet and photographer!) send me this link. You'll want to go if only for the looks of the site. But also look what they do for our deployed troops:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prominent Speaker and Author Offers Other Ideas on US' Popularity

Raff Ellis is faithful reader of both this blog and my Sharing with Writers newsltter ( He remembered the letter I just published (scroll down) and offered to write a rebuttle to the myth that other countries (and religions?) hate us because we are free. Whenever he contributes to any of my blogs he is always thoughtful and literate. Thank you, Raff.

Why do they really hate us?

The previous post on this blog reprinted comments made by Judge William Young when sentencing the notorious “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid. This quote has been passed around the Internet for several years—consider that the trial concluded just 15 months after 9-11, and patriotic outrage was still at fever pitch. Although the Judge’s sentiments are admirable and well intended, I feel they erroneously perpetuate the myth that our enemies “hate us for our freedoms,” a mantra which has been used by the far right-wing elements in our society in order to justify all sorts of illegal and unconstitutional behaviors—which have given our country an international “black eye.”

But, do America’s enemies covet ours freedoms? Let’s examine history to see if there might be a more compelling motive at work here.

When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, it had nothing to do with jealousy of the Ethiopian polity. Italy, like other Europeans before them, simply wanted their share of colonial Africa.

When Germany invaded France at the start of WWII, it was not because it hated the freedoms that the French enjoyed, but because it was anxious to dominate Europe. In fact Germany despised France as having a feeble and profligate society.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it was not because they coveted American democracy, which they in fact despised as being weak and inferior, but because they were hell-bent upon military conquest, and securing the raw materials they needed for industrial expansion.

As the above examples illustrate, there seems to be no historical precedence to show that a nation attacked another because it was envious of its form of government, except of course, if we are to believe the party line for September 11, 2001.

Isn't it a joke, actually, to think that the World Trade Center was attacked by a small group of people jealous of our way of life? Especially when one considers the alleged attackers were such fervent believers in a fundamentalist form of their Islamic religion that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to strike a blow against a nation they considered to be the "great Satan."

No, it wasn't envy of our freedoms but hatred of our policies that drove them to this dastardly act. They felt they had legitimate, un-redressed grievances against the United States for its years of meddling in their respective countries' geographic sphere. Certainly a catalog of such complaints could be compiled, but no matter how large the anthology of grievances, it did not justify the taking of nearly 3,000 innocent lives on 9-11.

The previous administration and its assemblage of policymakers perpetrated a fraud against the American public by shifting the focus of attention ― from their inability or unwillingness to secure diplomatic progress in the trouble spots of the world ― to the victims of those failures. "They hate our freedoms" is simply a way of appealing to innate, chauvinistic tendencies that lurk in the American culture. After all, who could be against fighting for our freedoms?

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows but, alas, so does war. Afghanistan is a good example. The Afghani warlords, whom we have bribed to work with us, are only marginally less despotic or cruel than their predecessors, the Taliban, but they still harbor the same cultural revulsions for democracy.

So, our leaders in Washington, flushed with the “success” of exporting democracy to Afghanistan, ran pell-mell into executing the same strategy with Iraq, an adventure that has cost over 4,000 American military lives and created untold hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian casualties.

I’m the first to understand that one cannot help but grow weary of having to read about dying and wounded soldiers in far off places, as shown by the relegation of such news to the back pages of our newspapers. But, we must keep our guard up and not succumb to the repetition of propaganda, because that will lead to further abuses. We must not ignore our veterans and their lousy health care and shrinking benefits. Nor should we abstain from thinking about our diminished Bill of Rights. There are too many serious problems to think about such as the economy, unemployment, and health care. It would be nice if we could glibly pass off why so many people around the globe hate us with a slogan.

Let’s ask ourselves why we have troops stationed in 135 countries out of 192 total around the globe? Shouldn’t we question why we’ve become a nation with a military-industrial complex that spends eleven times more on “defense” than 2nd place China (which has 4.5 times our population)? Perhaps this perceived hatred has something to do with our abysmal record of interfering in the affairs of their countries?

Our meddling hypocrisy and our strutting about claiming to have the greatest system of government in the world would certainly justify a modicum of animosity. We have never really exported democracy, and all through the 20th Century we overthrew democratically elected governments in favor of dictatorships all around the globe.

Hate our freedoms? You be the judge.

Raff Ellis is an author/lecturer and can be reached through his web site at


Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Celebrating Our Court System

Not to get political (sure!) but the copy and paste from my e-mail box that I am posting today is a reminder that our soil is in fact the best place to try and keep terrorists. Obama has it right. He knows our judiciary system. That system does make mistakes occasionally. And sometimes when it does there are severe ramifications. But our system still does it better than any (most?) and if we can't trust it, we need to reconsider what our soldiers are fighting for. Please read it all the way through before you get ticked off and please notice the words in bold. The bold is mine. Those words are about tolerance. Notice the shades of Lincoln's Gettysburg address here, too. I'm thinking about it and I hope others will, too.

Subject: Remember the Shoe Bomber?-- you have got to read this...

Remember the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it?

Did you read what the judge said at his sentencing back then?

Ruling by Judge William Young, US District Court.

Prior to sentencing, the Judge asked the defendant, Richard Reid, if he had anything
to say. His response:

After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah," defiantly stating, "I think I will not apologize for my actions," and told the court "I am at war with your country."

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General... On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutively.
(That's 80 years.)

On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years again, to
be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you
for each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 that's an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines...The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment.
The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need go no further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just
sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for
individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any
war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not----- you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've known warriors. You are a terrorist---a species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State
Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane
and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews
were, and he said: 'You're no big deal.'

You are no big deal.

What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have, as honestly as I know how, tried to grapple with is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today?

I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search
your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing? And, I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individua freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discreetly. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.

Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure.

Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America , the American
people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done... The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on
which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America . That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag
stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down."

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

With what has been called the "perfect storm of racism" in the news, it seems a poem, gentle but troubled, is in order.

Spirit Mother

By Melissa Kesead

She walks on forgotten whispers

gown blowing in lost conversations

She smiles at rays of sunshine

that fall on extinct nations

She talks to troubled spirits

hands gesturing in the moonlight

She frowns at falling teardrops

lost amid the stars so white

She lingers in the autumn breeze

tresses weaving about her face

She sighs at languages long lost

at human wars for greed, for race

She cries as forests fall in silence

gracefully slipping slowly away

She turns her eyes in shame and sorrow

and fades into the coming day

Mellissa Kissead's poetry comes from whatever inspires her. She says, "It could be social or economic events, relationships or my children. It always has meaning and comes from within. I have written poetry since I was a child and it has always helped me express my innermost feelings when it was too difficult to articulate." Please find more of her work on my Web site. at or at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fighting the War Within

Because I am a political animal, I get up in arms about the problems I see our troops and veterans face and this blog sometimes gets a little help-the-troops heavy rather than focusing on the root problem of war--intolerance. Today I have a guest blogger--and editor, fine writer and thinker--who will rectify that imbalance a bit. Please meet Jozette Aaron and respond to her essay:

Fighting the War Within

By Jozette Aaron

Reading the newspaper recently has been more like a chore than something I enjoy doing while having my coffee in the morning. I am hard put to find any good news, especially in light of the upsurge in hate crimes and racism in the U.S. The media calls it "a perfect storm" with the election of a black president, the recession, gay marriage and the gun law controversy. There are those out there that are less tolerant of change, those who internalize these feelings until something triggers those feelings and they boil over in an uncontrollable rage.

Change is what has made America the country it is today; has helped it to evolve and grow strong in the face of adversity. I never thought I'd live to see a black president in the white house but I did and for that, hope springs eternal; the hope that we would tighten the threads that hold us together as a nation, accept our differences as blessings for the chance to learn new cultures and new ways of experiencing our lives.

Our children and their children are our future leaders and much rests on their innocent shoulders. I have to remain optimistic that children who are bought up in the racial bias of their parents and taught to hate those different from themselves will, as adults, reject this mindset and accept all differences as part of the natural order of things.

While society accepts, in the name of free speech, and gives voice to all those who would drag our society, as a whole, through the mud, it is racism dressed up in many different outfits that fuel these voices.

We are fighting two wars in foreign lands, dealing with the threat of a nuclear incident as well as the infighting in our own government. The hope is that we, as Americans, can win the battle against differences and learn to live together in peace for peace is not something that will come from without…only from within.

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Jozette Aaron is the editor and publisher of DeSilva’s News...a tool writers rely on to meet their creative needs. Subscribers benefit from free promotion and marketing of their books, columns by successful, well known writers such as Carolyn Howard-Johnson and other writers wanting to share their expertise. DeSilva's News offers the latest information on where to find free courses, writer’s resources and calls for submissions; is chocked full of links to valuable information for your writing success. Sign up by visiting Jozette's Desk; every new subscriber receives a free e-Book - Writing Success Secrets.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vile Intolerance Allowed To Proliferate on Our Airwaves Only Increases Violence

I try to stay positive with messages on this blog, but there are times when one just must speak out--vehemently. Now is the time.

Our airwaves are carrying way too much obscene material and I am not talking about sex and dirty words. I'm talking about vile intolerance. By now we should all have some idea that intolerance is at the root of the world's problems--from time immemorial. The major negative influence in the world--some would say evil--is intolerance. That includes 9/11 and other acts of terrorism and all of the world's errors (too many wars to count, certainly, but all of the ones I am old enough to remember certainly were results of bigotry, lack of understanding and worse). Some of our popular (with some people) radio and TV hosts are the worst, yet we continue--presumably in the name of free speech and free press-- to let them exist. In fact we gladly give them podiums to stand on so they can destroy our culture.

As long as they are allowed to spew their venom, their audiences will grow and with that growth their ratings and wealth. We should be at least as watchful about this danger to our society as we are about nudity and sex. Here is a rundown of one of the incidents along with links where you can go to register your complaint.

Recently Bill Handel on KFI - suggested reducing the U.S. population to save the government money. Then came a wisecrack about starting with the Armenians and selling Glendale. So far, it’s just tacky, and par for the shock-radio course. One person who heard this called and e-mailed to complain. The upshot? The e-mail was read and mocked again no surprises. But then came “What the Turks started, Bill will finish.” Imagine if similar comments were made against Jews or Blacks! They would turn the world upside down until they got justice! It's time we do the same and stop being so passive. If you are truly offended by this, then take 10 minutes out of your day and do something about it.

You’ll certainly want to hear the two clips. Unfortunately, you can’t hear the real offender off KFI’s website. Why? They’ve taken down that show from their website. Hmm, wonder why that is. Fortunately, they were downloaded ahead of time and are now available at:

To contact these people, here are some options:
Snail mail address:
3400 W Olive Ave Ste 550, Burbank CA 91505
Robin Bertolucci, Program Director, KFI AM640,

You can also go to the FCC website and file a complaint with them. Here is a link: station numbers:
Main: (818) 559-2252
Programming: (818) 566-6476

Corporate headquarters:
Clear Channel, 200 East Basse Road, San Antonio, TX 78209

Let’s flood these people. Let's fill up their voice mail systems. You can find some other numbers for them online too.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at